Planning Your Food Photography Shoot

When it comes to food and beverage photography, manufacturers and their marketing teams have to start from scratch. The final images on packaging, in commercials, and on other advertising may seem to encompass a carefree nature, but in reality, it took a lot of people working in painstaking detail to get that perfect shot. Here are some pointers to keep in mind when your contemplating vamping up your brands food image library:

Whats your Budget — I know. Let’s just get it out there. This may be weird to talk about. However, at Saturn Lounge we like to ask these questions from the start, your budget is important to cover as it sets the stage for where your production dollars should be spent. These dollars may go towards Photography Fee (set up and shooting), Producer, file processing, set materials, and additional production expenses such as food stylist, food prep/shop, food costs and set propping/shopping. It may seem like a lot, however think about how this investment will add value to your brand for years to come.

How many days & shots do you need with variations? Here we are talking about time. Having day rates is fine, but also remember there is more work on the front end and back end. What can help keep these costs down is being prepared. It’s important to step onto your food photography set and have your shot list in hand. The less time you contemplate what shots you need when your on set, the more cost effective is it for you. Food Stylist Owen Franz offers up this advice:

“…Really think about your shoot. Find pictures that look like what you want and lay it out. It sounds strange, but the more information you can give the photographer and the stylist, the more they can do for you. If I know exactly what we are shooting and I am given an example in advance of something you like, I can reproduce them and be fully prepared for the day of the shoot. Even if you’re shooting ears of corn, are you trying to tell a story? Do other vegetables/grains go with this shot? A well thought out plan involving the client/photographer/stylist may go a long way to an amazing shoot!”

Which brings us to our next point…

Assembling the team — Any given food shoot requires a strong group, each with their own expertise and unique opinion. So collaboration is key to keeping the process orderly and ensuring everyone walks away feeling what they wanted was achieved. A recent shoot Saturn Lounge completed for Sandwich Bros. of Wisconsin included three client representatives, an art director, an agency account executive, a food stylist, a production manager, and the photographer. It is worth adding that having the client making approvals on set, or available via email during the shooting is critical to keeping costs down.

Setting the stage — So many decisions here. Is the food on a plate? On the table? How about propping? The visual style is vital to creating an emotion connection with your target buyer. Whether it’s a rustic comfort or fresh active approach–with each photo shoot you get your own top notch Saturn Lounge producer in order to get the job done.

Acquiring the product — If we are shooting packaged and temperature-sensitive items for clients such as Cedar Crest Ice Cream or Denali Ingredients, it comes in by the truck-full. Not because we want some extra for ourselves, but because there is only so much time before that ideal scoop starts to melt!

Styling the food — At Saturn Lounge, we have a full working kitchen in our photography studio solely for our food clients. We contract the best food stylists in the area. There is a delicate balance of time and technique involved when shooting the crispiness of freshly fried chicken or the sizzle of sauteed vegetables. We don’t want to waste any of it.

Taking the shot — Digital technology has vastly improved the amount of detail that a photographer can capture in an image. In addition to camera capabilities, our photographers are experts; they adjust elements such as exposure and color on the spot and layer different images to showcase every component of a dish in its best light.

Going to print — Package printing technology also has advanced to the point where food companies need a higher level of photography to match the high-quality print on paperboard, plastic freezer bags, and the like. The same image might be used on websites, social media channels, menus, magazines, billboards, or bus wraps. So making sure it remains the ideal image of a food product in all channels and all sizes is a must.

For a variety of mouth watering Saturn food photography, check out our new portfolio compilation: YUM